Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Incredible Mrs. Watanabe and her gaggle of Grus japonensis

The Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis), also called the Japanese Crane 丹頂 or タンチョウ, tancho; is a large East Asian crane and among the rarest cranes in the world. Because legends say they live for 1000 years, they are known as a symbol of longevity which in all Asian cultures is a sign of good luck. Because they mate for life they are also symbols of fidelity.
Adult cranes are snow white with black to the wings (appears almost like a black tail when standing, but the real tail feathers are white), blackish to the head and neck, and a patch of red skin on the crown. This patch of skin becomes brighter red when the crane becomes angry or excited. This species is among the largest cranes, typically measuring about 158 cm (62 in) tall. Typical body weight can range from 7 to 10 kg (15 to 22 lb).

 The estimated total population of the species is only 2,750 in the wild, including about 1,000 birds in the resident Japanese population found in eastern Hokkaidō. One famous lady, Mrs. Watanabe, has been feeding large numbers of them for more than 40 years near her home on the northern edge of the Kushiro Shitsugen National Park.

 The migratory populations of the Red-crowned Crane breed in Siberia (eastern Russia). Normally the cranes lay 2 eggs, with only one surviving. Later, in the fall, they migrate in flocks to Korea and eastern China and of course Hokkaido Japan to spend the winter. The habitats are marshes, riverbanks, rice fields, and other wetland areas. They eat small amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, insects, and plants that grow in marshes and swamps.

 One of the official logos of Japan Airlines featured a Red-crowned Crane.

My submission for Travel Photo Thursday for December 28th, 2011


  1. Man, I guess it was worth a trip to the northern tundra for a chance to see these rare birds !

  2. How cool to get so close to cranes. Up here, it's very difficult to get near enough to get decent photos.

  3. They really are a sight to behold!

    Happy New Year!

  4. What a great series of photos! Very nice. . .

  5. Sandhill Cranes winter here in Northern California. We've seen them many times during birding trips to the Central Valley.

  6. So graceful, these cranes. Had no idea the red-crowned crane is the official logo of Japan Airlines. Best wishes for 2012!

  7. Beautiful article, I love cranes too... Happy New Year!